Dr. Cathy Irwin, author of “Twice Orphaned: Voices from the Children’s Village of Manzanar,” will be the keynote speaker at the 47th annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, sponsored by the Manzanar Committee, scheduled for noon on Saturday, April 30, at the Manzanar National Historic Site, located on U.S. Highway 395 in California’s Owens Valley, between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, approximately 230 miles north of Los Angeles.

Cathy Irwin
Cathy Irwin

Each year, over 1,000 people from diverse backgrounds, including students, teachers, community members, clergy and former incarcerees, attend the pilgrimage, which commemorates the unjust incarceration of over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry in ten American concentration camps, and other confinement sites, located in the most desolate, isolated regions of the United States, during World War II. Manzanar was the first of the American concentration camps to be established.

The theme for this year’s Pilgrimage is “Kodomo no Tame ni: For the Sake of the Children — Liberty and Justice for All.”

An associate professor of writing in the Department of English at the University of LaVerne, Irwin was born and raised in Los Angeles and received her bachelor of arts degree in English at UC Berkeley and her Ph.D. in English at the University of Southern California. She is a former editor of the literary magazine Prism Review, and has published poems and several essays, including “Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies”; “Mixing It Up: Multiracial Subjects”; “Embodying Asian American Sexualities”; and “Completely Mixed Up: Mixed-Heritage Asian North American Writing and Art.”

“We’re honored to have Dr. Irwin as our keynote speaker at this year’s pilgrimage,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “The fact that young children were incarcerated in the Japanese American concentration camps shines an even brighter light on the unjust nature of the camps. Compounding that injustice, even orphans, 101 of them, were incarcerated, all of them in Children’s Village at Manzanar.

“Dr. Irwin’s 2008 book tells the moving and inspiring story of the orphans of Children’s Village, young children, including toddlers, who their country chose to lock up behind barbed wire. Today, too few know about the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, but even fewer know that orphans were also incarcerated. Their story is one that everyone should learn about as well.”

In addition to the afternoon event, the Manzanar At Dusk program follows that same evening from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Lone Pine High School auditorium, located at 538 S. Main St. (U.S. Highway 395), in Lone Pine, nine miles south of the Manzanar National Historic Site, across the street from McDonald’s.

Manzanar At Dusk is co-sponsored by the Nikkei Student Unions at CSU Long Beach, Cal Poly Pomona, UCLA, and UC San Diego.

Through a creative presentation, small group discussions and an open mic session, Manzanar At Dusk participants will have the opportunity to learn about the experiences of those incarcerated in the camps. Participants will also be able to interact with former incarcerees in attendance to hear their personal stories, to share their own experiences, and discuss the relevance of the concentration camp experience to present-day events and issues.

The Manzanar Committee has also announced that bus transportation to the Pilgrimage from Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo is available.

The bus will depart at 7 a.m., arriving at the pilgrimage at approximately 11:30 a.m., and will also take participants to the Visitors’ Center at the Manzanar National Historic Site following the afternoon program. The bus should arrive back in Los Angeles at approximately 8:30 p.m.

Reservations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The non-refundable fare is $40 per seat, $30 for students and seniors. Complimentary fares are available for those who were incarcerated at any of the former American concentration camps or other confinement sites during World War II.

Anyone wishing to attend the Manzanar At Dusk program that evening should make other transportation arrangements.

Pilgrimage participants are advised to bring their own lunch, drinks and snacks, as there are no facilities to purchase food at the Manzanar National Historic Site (restaurants and fast-food outlets are located in Lone Pine and Independence, which are nearby). Water will be provided at the site.

Both the Manzanar Pilgrimage and the Manzanar At Dusk programs are free and are open to the public. For more information, or to reserve a seat on the bus, call (323) 662-5102 or email 47thpilgrimage@manzanarcommittee.org.

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